VEHICLE ANALYSIS: The thinking Honda SUV

By Graeme Roberts | 15 June 2015

A driver aid menu lets you select various parameters to determine how much Nanny nannies you

A driver aid menu lets you select various parameters to determine how much Nanny nannies you

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The press kit for Honda's January launch of the updated 2015 CR-V contained a short detail that caught Gadget Nut here's attention.

"The 2015 CR-V will premiere Honda’s new Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control (i-ACC) system as part of [our] commitment to 'Safety for Everyone'.

"Capable of predicting and automatically reacting to other vehicles 'cutting in' to the vehicle’s lane, based on extensive real world research of typical European driving styles, Honda’s i-ACC uses a camera and a radar to sense the position of other vehicles on the road. It then applies an algorithm to predict the likelihood of vehicles in neighbouring lanes cutting in, enabling the equipped vehicle to react quickly, safely and comfortably."

That had to be worth a go. But not, perhaps, on the mad roads around Barcelona, venue for the first European drive in LHD cars. We'd keep that for familiar territory back home in RHD Blighty.

Which is how, a few months later, I found myself piloting a Swindon-built, six-speed manual CR-V, with the new 160PS diesel engine, in the direction of an evil junction between two major UK motorways near me - one a north-south (more or less) route between two major cities, the other effectively two sides of what is really a giant motorway-style ring road around one of those conurbations. Locals know when and how to position their cars for appropriate changeover ramps but there are always the unfamiliar, desperately cutting in from left and right at the last minute, to challenge steady travel.

Radar cruise control, first tried in a BMW 5 at least five years ago, is slowly migrating down to peasant level, you can get it in many cars now, more often than not as part of a 'safety pack' upgrade and usually closer to, or at, the top of the range. Much as I like stuff thrown in for free, this makes sense because, if a buyer isn't actually going to use such kit (or just doesn't see the value), there's not much point in paying for it though I can't help thinking there must be some improvement in resale value if you do tick the box.

In Honda UK's case, there are four CR-V trim levels and a Driver Assistance Safety Pack, including Forward Collision Warning, Traffic Sign Recognition System, Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Information and Cross Traffic Monitor is a GBP600 option on the top three while 'Honda Sensing', adding Collision Mitigation Braking System, Lane Keeping Assist and intelligent-Adaptive Cruise Control is another GBP1,500 available only on the top EX line which starts at GBP30,400. You gotta want to do a lot of intelligent cruisin' to count out another 1,500 notes though the additional per-month on a PCP guaranteed residual lease is probably not too impalatable.

The new collision mitigation braking system combines a camera and radar technology capable of operating over an expanded range, combining high and low speed braking, bringing the car to standstill if required. It can now detect vehicles from further in the distance and their closing rate between the car and the vehicle (car or truck) directly in front of it. Unlike the older radar system, it is also possible to recognise objects such as pedestrians or oncoming cars. 

Honda claimed the 2015 CR-V was the first vehicle in the world equipped with such a predictive cruise control system.

I-ACC uses a camera (in a cluster of lenses and sensors at the top of the windscreen) and radar to sense the position of other vehicles on the road. It then applies an algorithm to predict the likelihood of vehicles in neighbouring lanes cutting in by evaluating relations between multiple vehicles, enabling the equipped vehicle to react quickly. It complements rather than replaces traditional adaptive cruise control and reacts earlier and less drastically.

Sure does. The one gripe with 'original' radar cruise was its somewhat abrupt reaction to any vehicle filling the preset gap. UK roads are incredibly crowded and tailgating rife so I - brought up on sixes and V8s with boot polish tins for (drum) brakes and no power assistance - tend to adhere to the old one car length for every 10mph rule which also allows extra room in case Noddy behind looks like being a bit late braking when the inevitable queue forms in front. I await 'tailgater radar' as the next step. Problem with leaving space - also keeps interior air fresher as your (car's) nose is not up the exhaust pipe in front - is that someone will always try to fill it leading to the standard ACC applying the anchors somewhat.

Honda's system, in contrast, doesn't overreact, working remarkably well for a system first time out of the box. Should a car cut across your bows and keep accelerating it doesn't brake sharply, instead it consults the algorithm oracle and (usually) concludes the car in front is widening the gap back up again and all is well. It then slowly adjusts the gap back to where you set it. Should the car that cut in front slow or brake, your brakes are applied but not with excessive panic and only as much as required. Cruise control, pre radar adaptive, was always advised for use on clear, straight and open roads, ideally motorways, but this new tech can be used anywhere, more easily with Honda's new nine-speed automatic transmission than the trial car's manual, 'cos it'll bring you to a halt in traffic queues and start you off again, nice and steady as she goes. Blimmin clever.

The system is also great if you change lanes, keeping an eye out and adjusting speed and gap as preset. I did eventually catch it out pulling up quite close behind a humungeous truck and then pulling out into the next lane (having made sure it was clear behind) and, on that occasion, the system seemed a little bemused by the size of the target in front and was slower to accelerate. With cars, no problemo.

Bottom line: the autonomous car is sneaking up on us. This Honda can 'work out' what traffic around you is doing and adjust pace and even bring you to a halt and start you off again. Like many other cars now, it'll yell at you and apply the anchors if its senses a collision's imminent, bug you if you don't see someone coming up fast in an adjacent line before moving out, nag you if you drift out of lane on a motorway (I need that) and bleat if you try to back out or pull out into cross traffic. And it reads road speed limit signs, reducing those awkward 'what's the limit along here again?' moments.

Many cars also can now park themselves parallel, or perpendicular, nose or tail-in. And BMW is just launching a new 7 series with which you can stand outside the car with a new 'smart' key fob, complete with digital display, and guide it nose or tail in to a park space or even - I'm picking - a garage that ordinarily would not be wide enough to let you open a door and get out after parking.

The good thing, as I noted earlier, is all this stuff migrates down - eventually - and gets cheaper. Suppliers sort out the bugs and amortise the development costs with the luxury automakers and then the kit ends up in an option pack on your C segment familymobile. Park your new 7 series remotely this year, watch for the same option on a 1 series within five years.

I've heard laments that all this tech - and other things - makes for lazier, less competent drivers. Maybe. But there's always that moment of distraction, inattention, for even the best. Clever tech like this helps avoid expensive and injurious accidents. Tick the boxes if the wallet will allow.

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